First, let's start with the Traditional Chinese Medicine terminology. "Zhen jiu" is traditionally used to refer to acupuncture in China. Zhen translates as "needle" and Jiu is "burn or cauterize with moxa or the act of moxibustion," thus we have "to needle and burn/cauterize with moxa or perform moxibustion." Now that doesn't sound fun.
However, when the West decided to translate zhen jiu, they didn't keep the terms together as in China. "Zhen" became acupuncture and "jiu," moxibustion. Jiu stayed close to its original meaning, but the meaning of zhen was modified and clarified because "to needle" just wasn't good enough as a name for a medical modality, now was it?
OK, before we go on we need to address the actual medical term for acupuncture, stylostixis, which is defined as, "treatment of pain or disease by inserting the tips of needles at specific points on the skin." (Please note that the FDA states that only a pharmaceutical substance can treat or cure a disease, thus all alternative medicine does nothing according to them, nice. . . but we can perform alternative healing because that isn't treating or curing, . . . whatever).
What we need to note about stylostixis is the part about "specific points on the skin." This is a very important aspect, otherwise anyone sticking needles randomly into the epidermis is performing stylostixis and we all know that isn't true, right? We also need to note that it is the "inserting" of needles otherwise it's acupressure and we are acupuncturists not acupressurists.
Now we can turn our attention to the common word used, acupuncture. It is defined as "a Chinese medical practice or procedure that treats illness or provides local anesthesia by the insertion of needles at specified sites of the body." Again we have "specified sites," in other words, acu-points. If we take the parts of the word, "acu" and "puncture" we can see that the word is a very specific translation of a very specific act. "Acu" refers to the acupuncture points, not just any old place on the dermis. "Puncture," obviously, means the act or process of puncturing (puncturation) and not just touching the point with a needle or applying pressure to the point or burning the point, got it? OK. Therefore, we have a literal translation that says what acupuncture is. It is the act of puncturing (with a needle = puncturation) an acu-point (an acupuncture point = a specific area on the body and not just any old place) = acupuncturation for a more literal translation.
See, isn't that simple? You may be wondering why we are making a big deal about this. Well, there are practitioners and very famous ones at that, who insist that sticking a needle anywhere in the skin is acupuncture because every spot is covered by an acu-point and the meridians run everywhere. . . yada yada yada. This tells us one clear thing about the people who say such things. They know nothing of True Acupuncture. Acu-points are very specific spots on the body. . . very specific areas. They simply are not anywhere and everywhere on the body. If a person wishes to put this to the test they only need to read Morant's qualifications for a True Acupuncture Point (see Chinese Acupuncture by Morant).
True Acupuncture is very focused not only with needling the center of an acu-point, and yes they are very real, but hitting the exact center of a true acu-point. Suffice it to say, there are "levels" of acu-points along each meridian and all are not created equal. To find the center of a true point is the art and is one of the most difficult things to do, thus if you are slapping in needles without spending significant time locating the center of the points, then it is highly unlikely that you have ever experienced what an acupoint can do.